U.S. House race to test GOP's upset theory
The GOP challenger in today's special election to replace former U.S. Rep. Robert Wexler says he's banking on public disdain for President Barack Obama's health care bill and low congressional approval ratings to deliver an upset to his Democratic opponent, widely seen as the front-runner. The contest between Democratic state Sen. Ted Deutch and Republican Ed Lynch will be the country's first U.S. House race of 2010. Wexler, a seven-term Democrat from Boca Raton, resigned in January to lead a Middle East think tank. He was hugely popular in District 19, which includes parts of Broward and Palm Beach counties and has more than twice as many registered Democrats than Republican — 234,000 to about 111,000.
Thrasher to take closer look at bills
Wearing his chairman's hat, Sen. John Thrasher, R-St. Augustine, said he plans to announce later this week the formation of yet another panel to investigate how the Republican Party of Florida pays its bills and reimburses its members and staff. With fresh revelations involving tens of thousands of dollars in questionable American Express purchases, the party chairman said the panel of outside business executives will look into how the party can make its accounting and expensing procedures more secure. "I'm looking at some CEOs who I have a great deal of confidence in, who contacted me and said they might have an interest in doing something like that," Thrasher said. He also said he's personally going through Amex bills dating back three years to see if anything else jumps out at him.
In first-quarter fundraising news
• The Republican Party of Florida raised more than $7.2 million in the first quarter, compared to $2.77 million by the Democrats. As the Dems touted their haul, the GOP said, "That fact that Florida Republicans raised more than 21/2 times as much as the Florida Democrat Party during the first three months of this critical election year highlights just how out of touch the Democrats are with the majority of Florida voters."
• Republican chief financial officer candidate Jeff Atwater raised $435,000 in the first quarter, during the 45 days he was allowed to raise money. The Senate president's campaign says he now has nearly $2 million on hand. Democratic candidate Loranne Ausley said in an e-mail that she had about $350,000 on hand.
AARP urges unity on PSC reform
AARP Florida director Lori Parham called on House Speaker Larry Cretul and Senate President Jeff Atwater to work out their differences on a plan to reform the Public Service Commission and warned that the massive differences over the approach taken by each chamber threaten to undermine any reforms this session. "All Floridians deserve the strongest, fairest and most transparent utilities regulation that our elected officials can create," Parham said in a statement.
Associated Press; News Service of Florida; Times political editor Adam C. Smith, Times/Herald staff writer Mary Ellen Klas